China has agreed to open the Khunjerab border for trade in response to Pakistan’s repeated demands, but only under strict conditions due to the Covid-19 situation.
Pakistani exporters and importers would not be able to enter China under the Chinese government’s terms, and would instead load and unload goods on Pakistan’s side of the border for inspection and sterilization.
According to reliable sources, Chinese exporters would leave the goods at a designated location on Pakistan’s side of the border, where importers could pick them up after following SOPs. Exporters would similarly leave their products at the same location where Chinese buyers would receive them after completing the same procedure on their side of the border.
All parties’ staff and vehicles have been directed to operate in separate time frames to avoid direct communication. When the freight inspection channel is opened, loading and unloading, lowering, and hanging up the trailer must all be done separately.
The opening of cargo inspection channels will take place in two stages, with disinfection and sterilization facilities at Khunjerab-Sost Port becoming operational on May 1.
“From April 1 to April 30, both sides could perform activities separately in the first process. After unloading, there is no need to reposition the container. In their response, Chinese authorities explain that the activity area is on the Pakistani side of the border under No 7.
Local traders have deemed the conditions unjustified, citing the fact that the entire procedure will take place in Pakistan.
Nasir Raki, the former president of the Gilgit Baltistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (GB CCI), said that the one-sided border opening would only help Chinese traders. “It is unfortunate that no Pakistani, pending medical clearance, will be able to reach China. We wouldn’t be able to cross the border even though we were vaccinated with vaccines made in China. “This is a one-sided trade,” he said, adding that the terms would be unacceptable to local traders.
Islamabad had requested China to reopen the border earlier this month to promote cross-border trade and people-to-people exchanges.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China reported in a letter to the Chinese Embassy in Pakistan that the border was closed on December 1, 2019, as planned, due to the winter season, and that it is reopening on April 1, 2020, had been postponed due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the bilateral agreement, the China-Pakistan border is closed from December 1 to March 31 every year due to extreme weather conditions. However, for the rest of the year, the border remains open to two-way passenger traffic as well as goods and freight transportation.
In July of last year, the border was opened for a few weeks to allow for the release of stranded containers, and again in September to allow for the transfer of medical equipment donated by the Chinese government to the UK to deal with Covid-19.